Phew ......that certainly was a busy but thoroughly enjoyable few weeks. The MA final show's curation, invigilation and artist talk are behind me........now is the time for reflection.
Curating the show along with the curating team Catriona McAra & Matthew Wheeldon at Leeds Arts University and my fellow MA students Mel Dewey, Sue Wright, Ann Barrass & Paula Hickey has been such a rewarding experience. Taking a week off work to concentrate on this task enabled me to be hands on and available for the many tasks involved in putting the show together as well as sorting my own work out.
Accommodating 17 exhibiting artists in such challenging spaces was quite a big task. The main gallery, the rotunda and the lecture theatre gallery were the main exhibiting spaces all spread in different directions throughout the college. The placing of the exhibiting spaces were not ideal and did cause logistical problems after the opening night. (Invigilating meant we had to accompany visitors to the other spaces away from the main gallery leaving this space unattended. There were occasions when two of us were invigilating which worked better.)
The key aspect for me was to use the spaces to their advantage, harnessing their presentation of shape and structure in order to enhance the work displayed within them. Places such as the rotunda with its curved wall and off set plain wall and framed inset worked well with Sue Wright and Anne Barrass's work. Both embraced their spaces using them to the their advantage. Sue used the curve in the wall to highlight the 3D sculptural aspect of her printed hand made paper. Ann made advantage of the plain wall and adjacent alcove by painting the walls dark grey enhancing her perfected minute black and white etchings to great effect. Mel also used her placing in the main corridor as one of the major features of the show. Along with Sue and Ann the overall strategy was to paint the walls in block colours. This immediately made big statements and ultimately benefited each individuals work.
The week of installation highlighted to me how many people had not realized the importance of the presentation and placing of their work; how analytical and in depth the job of curating is. Critical analysis and an eye for detail is paramount in the way work is displayed. The correct background, placing, framing/not framing, materials used to hang, what work to use and the amount of work displayed has to be carefully considered in order to show work at its best and appropriate. All these aspects effect the way the work is seen and perceived. The importance of prep and trying things out before installation cannot be undervalued. The more ideas you have the more likely you are to solve problems and challenges at the time of installation. In this context; a final MA show, important key points to consider are a) have plenty of work; you may or may not use & remember less is more b) be open to suggestions, alternative ways of showing work c) take time out to install work and d)realize that the show is not 'your' show but a show involving other cohorts. With limited space individuals work had to be placed with much thought as to how they sat aesthetically and ethically with each other. There was a tendency for individuals to want to show too much work. My involvement in curating has ever more established the old saying 'less is more' Showing a single strong representation of your work and practice is far more powerful than lots of pieces.
The feedback was extremely positive in the way to show was curated. One issue was the vinyl naming which we had placed on the floor. We decided on this placing so it didn't intrude on peoples work. On reflection it didn't work all that well. Visitors were unable to find them as they blended into the floor space. Had they been placed on a white background they would have been far more visible. Overall the show went down a storm and many people visited after the opening night.
Opening night Re:Mastered,
The opening night was a great success with hundreds of visitors through the doors. My own work; an installation of a time lapse film of Ice Form melt (a result of a collaboration with Mel Dewey Artist Photographer) and three Ice Forms placed in acrylic cubes left to melt were extremely successful, I was overwhelmed with the response and feedback. Although exhibiting Ice Forms has been a major challenge the hard work paid off. My original plan of replacing the ice forms every day did not happen each day as logistically it was impossible for me to get there and back from Leeds to Harrogate in time to start work! The Ice Forms were replaced approximately 3-4 times a week over the two week period. However the few days without fresh Ice Forms enabled the installation to take on another dimension which turned out to be extremely successful. The melt water, organic matter and monofilament, left from previous ice forms presented more interest for the viewer sparking new threads of thought, intrigue and reflection. The work continued to develop and surprise throughout the whole two week of the exhibition. Murky melt water presented such beautiful visions of underwater mystery and fascination. A personal reflection of childhood wild water swimming and play in streams and rivers were an immediate consideration.
I think the contrasts created through the showing of the time lapse film and the ephemeral, transient melting of the ice forms created a juxtaposition that worked extremely well forming a relationship between the two pieces. If the work was being viewed at the stages of complete melt the film provided an insight and narrative to what had once existed within the cubes.
Showing the ephemeral and transient work within the 'white cube' space has highlighted to me how important it is for these sorts of works to be shown out of their context (an outdoor landscape) in order for the viewer to appreciate their beauty. In a 'white cube' environment the work is strong, attention is brought directly to the work as it is an alien environment for it to sit and be part of. The viewer is able to 'loose' themselves in the work; there is nothing else around them to complicate or intrude on their view. Less is more . By containing a small representation of pure ephemeral delicateness and fragility out of its elemental environment it is highly emphasized assisting the viewer to 'look closer' and think deeper at what they are seeing.
There were members of staff who visited the work on a daily basis to see what was in the cubes each day, and many visitors were struck at how beautiful the ice forms were. People were intrigued.
The positioning of my piece next to Paula Hickey's worked better than we had expected. Our practices although different are strongly linked through our association with the landscape and how we represent its materiality. On an aesthetical level (and without discussion beforehand) our pieces naturally came together extremely well. Paula's large square Japanese paper canvases with circular planetary moon like drawings complimented my rounded Ice Forms within the square Perspex cubes.
Our joint artist talk was well attended. Feedback from this was very positive. It was a great opportunity to engage an audience and educate people about what motivates me and drives my practice. A particular reference/question that was put to me at this event was about the aesthetical value of my work and how important that was to me? I responded in saying that it was highly important, I want to produce work that has a beauty and delicacy. I have achieved this in the work I have developed through my time on the MA.
Immediately there is a need to personally regenerate and sort things out in the studio; go through work produced to try and pull in some much needed cash! I have produced a mountain of work that needs to be framed and presented for purchasing.
My practice will continue daily. The Ice Form project has so much more potential. Ideas of scaling up and producing larger work is something I am considering. A time lapse film made during the MA Exhibition is being edited and there maybe potential to use this as a promotional tool to kick start other opportunities. As a close group, myself and creative friends from the MA are committed to keeping our practices current and vibrant by planning projects and exhibiting opportunities together. We are all of the same thinking and value having a creative, critical bond and friendship to generate future work and opportunities.
London August 2017.....
Another visit to London just before final submission of the MA made for a welcomed break. This city has begun to captivate me like I had never imagined. Contrasting qualities of every respect appear to fuel my art practice. The hectic, fast paced, consumer driven, mass converging of people within this capital is so far removed from the time I spend immersing myself into the more rural of environments. These strikingly different places highlight the state of society as it exists, giving context to each other and keeping me grounded to the here and now.
The Sky Garden 20 Fenchurch Street gave opportunity to view the city from 38 storeys high (Which takes 27 seconds to travel up to in the lift!) A spectacular vista of the city was experienced on the viewing platform. As the day was overcast the landscape appeared rich in grey and black contrasting architecture a sheer marvel of humanities skill in the creating, engineering and building this powerful and vibrant city.
RA Summer Exhibition 2017
The RA Summer Exhibition was as inspiring as ever. I was particularly drawn to the works above. David Nash's pieces all explored space and materiality and the burning method was used to char the insides of a tree trunk and the surrounding frames of some pieces. This elemental process was displayed in such raw physicality and resonated much of my ongoing processes; the inclusion of charcoal within my ice forms and the singing method used to highlight needle prick texture. There did appear to be a theme within this particular room that captured the 'burning' method and its direct mark making qualities. Burnt Line Drawings by Julia Hutton were particularly interesting. Their simplicity is beautiful and channels my thoughts into how I am beginning to strip down work and concentrate on detail rather than the actual full form of the skeletal leaf.
The photographic print on aluminium by Paul Benham 'Holding Water' was such a beautiful image that captivated the fleeting moment of physical contact between hand and water.
The presentation of some of the images were also interesting such as the above presented on boards rather than 'framed' has given much thought about the use of surfaces rather than frames in the presentation of work. My paper based work is realized in a textural and three dimensional form and I am constantly challenged by the issue of 'framing' work. Glass free affixed to alternative flat surfaces such as wood, stone etc. may be an option and something to explore.
It is important that my practice is sustained on a creative level and financial level. I am currently sourcing opportunities post MA to keep me motivated and pro active as an art practitioner. Opportunities that offer commission payment and cash prizes are the first priority but it is ultimately the recognition of being accepted to exhibit and communicate my practice in a public arena that drives and fuels my work forward.
Short term (2 week) residencies in Iceland are something I would like to work towards to enable me concentrated periods that have no influence of everyday life interrupting practice. Time, money and circumstances will dictate this particular possibility.
Because my practice is driven by the observation of materialized process through experimentation, work is fluid and ever changing. One thing leads to another; recognising opportunities to develop unplanned 'happenings' drive process forward and
I still have much to explore and take forward with my current work. I intend to source exhibiting opportunities where I am able to communicate my message through these platforms. I do not intend to 'make' work that fits. I intend to source opportunities that fit my work!
Superposition ASMbly lab....
I will be showcasing my #iceform project as part of the Superposition ASMbly pop up lab event:
(A)rt, (S)cience, (M)ake labs is our annual big event. A 12 day long pop-up art science lab with the aim of generating new artworks and prototypes in a fast, hotbed environment of cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists, scientists and makers. We also have workshops, drop-in activities, an exhibition, talks and a closing event with performers working with art, science and making.
This will be an opportunity for me to try to solve the many problems I face with this project, gain knowledge, create new collaborations as well as pass on some of my own! The logistics as ever, with these ephemeral works are challenging but I will persevere. The tensions of process, deterioration, decay and regeneration are what drive my thought processes and practice forward.
I spent the afternoon within the Superposition ASMbly lab presenting/introducing the Ice Form Project to scientists and artists. It was an interesting afternoon of discussion and input. Exhibiting a selection of ice forms was a great way of receiving feedback on how people perceived them.Most of all it was the making of them that sparked much interest and the contents within them.
There is still much more to develop in the making of this work and new ideas, especially different materials that could be experimented with come to light all the time. The recent introduction of charcoal has been a successful experiment and while making some ices forms on the day discovery of the different potentials between charcoal as a powder and as a solid have come to light; the powder acting more as a dye and colouring the water as opposed to the solid pieces staying intact within the water/ice.
The scientists are extremely focused on the measured aspect of process and channel thinking in such an ordered and mathematical way, where as I throw caution to the wind and just 'try' things out! This freedom enables me to learn from the things that don't work and move creative processes forward. It is often the things that go wrong that I discover are the most meaningful and relevant.
With only the afternoon there I mainly concentrated on showcasing my work to an audience and grasping the opportunity to talk, gain feedback and take note of any possibilities that could be taken forward. One of the main aspects suggested was the use of different types of water i.e. from different places streams, rivers, and other parts of the country/globe and how it would react aesthetically to freezing. Freezing salt water is something I want to try and hope to visit the coast and collect water from he north sea to experiment with.
A main concern for me is the logistics of this project and the presentation of the work. The transportation of the ice forms from
a to b within a cool box works but is not ideal. Physically this takes its toll and is demanding on me.
How would I realize this piece in another space, another part of the country or even oversees??? The work has great potential for being shown within other gallery settings and if I were to have the opportunity to do this the ice forms would either have to be made on site/in situ or stored within a frozen environment close to the exhibition space. (the Superposition were kind enough to obtain a freezer which I was able to use on site) The whole concept of this project offers so many 'on site' process led making which could become part of the actual work and transference of learning about the physical connection to the real. There are many difficulties within this work that can be solved by an 'artist in residence' aspect and something I need to pursue.
Curation as Disruption
As part of Sharon Bainbridge (MA Tutor & Curator to name but a few talents!) farewell from Leeds College of Art I put forward some of my work for curation as part of her themed final curatorship 'Curation as Disruption' exhibition. I presented my work unframed and protected between tracing paper; 7 7x7cm pieces of cow parsley immersed in hand made paper. The summer season influenced this work. Cow parsley is in abundance at this time of year and this particular variety Anthriscus sylvestris is so delicate and sensitive in nature I just had to use it in some work. Childhood memories strong while in the making and the tactility of the landscape I explored as a child influenced the poem that accompanied the piece.
The work was handed over and I gave Sharon full rein on how the piece was to be curated and displayed. After a brief discussion with Sharon she was really interested in the tracing paper I had protected the work with and I came away thinking that she may use the paper to present it. This would have been ok by me! Tracing paper has such a translucent quality that evokes a veiled and distant past that once existed I think it would have worked well. Due to being unwell Sharon was unable to curate my work and the Curator team displayed the work framed. This decision still shows the work well. They have been exhibited as 'specimens' which is, what they are. The subject of curation and disruption is what the exhibition is all about and to have two different curators viewing my work in different ways is in itself interesting and extremely flattering!
The work got a great response and I was able to chat about it in great detail. Visually the work is uncomplicated and resonates a simplified aesthetic in a complicated 21st century world. The attention to small details and the honing in of sections of work is becoming a theme for me at the moment.
As the viewer looks closer questions are asked about what materials are used and how the work is made. This is exactly the response I aim for; looking closer and investigating its materiality. Comments that the pieces were in fact drawings were made because visually, the organic matter is immersed into the paper and both materials become physically connected and appear as one surface.
Time marches on.......
With only a few weeks until the final hand in for my Masters in Creative Practice I am starting to wind things up and put the finishing touches to my work. With another trip to London just before hand in things need to be in place before I go. I have decided to concentrate on the live briefs I have ongoing and finish off unfinished writing etc. as realistically it is not possible for me to cram anything else in. Future exhibiting opportunities and online selling outlets for my work I will tackle post MA.
Reflecting back two years ago and my original proposal for the MA is influencing the way I foresee the exhibition of my final work in October. The drawings by prehistory man over 20,000 years ago in the Lascaux Cave, France were my starting point and the question as to why and what made these individuals draw these drawings still fascinates me. Above all it has been the 'physical' aspect of these drawings that intrigue me. That transition from rubbing and scratching into and onto a textured surface, to manipulating materials in order to make considered and hugely intelligent drawings. The dawning of self expression within a darkly lit cave that, without pure elemental forces such as a naked flame would have been in complete darkness.
I try to imagine the aesthetics of these surroundings in which they were drawn, the atmosphere; the smells and sounds within these caves and wonder if I can in some way embrace a little of this aesthetic an recreate as part of a final installation in a contemporary setting.
Last weeks mock up of a some of my ice forms within a 'dark' interior highlighted by spot lights were extremely positive. The space and environment I created was far removed from the outside world; only the sound of the melt water dripping was heard. A serene calmness of direct association with the ephemeral pieces was created; it was just you and the natural deterioration of the ice within this space, an aspect I endeavour to produce.
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/how-a-dog-called-robot-helped-reveal-lascauxs-prehistoric-art-gallery/news-story/717e1cb7dc68c1302f2575e5cdc67fe9 (accessed 17/7/16)
This brilliant book written in 1973 is so relevant it could have been written yesterday. Schumacher was a great believer that 'Technology must be the servant of man, not its master' that we need technology to solve our problems not create more. Technology is developed to enable us to make our lives easier, better and more enjoyable but instead of lightening the burden of work it has made extra work and life even more difficult. Regularly I hear the term 'juggling' things, 'fitting' things in. Now within the 21st century technology has made our day to day activities not easier but more complicated and stressful. We are slaves to technology and dependant on the way it dictates our lives. Our lack of time for leisure has increased over the past 40 years alongside this technological development and dependence.Things have got worse instead of better. Everywhere problems have grown; poverty, unemployment, climate change still continues to grow, technology has not solved problems it has made them escalate!
Development of technology has created a huge amount of so called labour saving devices but our time for leisure has reduced. Modern technology has practically eliminated skilful and productive work of the human hand with real materials. In the richer countries UK, USA and Germany we live strained and stressful lives but in poorer countries they have larger amounts of leisure time. With less labour saving devices they of course accomplish less, but the burden of 'living' is less compared to ours. Virtually all production has been reduced to work that is a heartless chore work that doesn't 'enrich a man but empties him' Schumacher talks about the need for a 'technology with a human face' a technology that helps us utilize the human hand and brain to be more productive than ever.
Ghandi has said the poor of the world cant be helped by mass production only by the production of the masses.
The production of the masses uses the priceless resources we all, as human beings possess; clever brains and skilful hands which can be supported with high quality tools. Mass production violates ecology and renewable resources and damages the enthusiasm of society. The term 'Many hands make light work' comes to mind and within that 'many' there becomes community, collaboration, connection to each other and materiality generating haptic wellbeing of making and producing.
We as humans have the capabilities to generate a high quality of life, a life balance of work and leisure by utilizing our brains and gifts of making and creativity but we choose to be believe the instigators of mass production and what they tell us we should be doing and using. They play on our pack mentality and insecurities into accepting that their way is the better way.
The term small is beautiful appropriates aspects of my practice also. I strive to make the other wise overlooked or discarded regarded in a different way, to make people see the beauty in decay and the elements. Everything is relevant no matter how small, in the cycle of life
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/mar/27/schumacher-david-cameron-small-beautiful 9accessed 12/7/17)
Schumacher E F, Small Is Beautiful, 1993, Vintage, London
Skeletal leaf images from my Instagram feed
I am, I hate to admit, becoming increasingly obsessed with Instagram. Its ease of interaction and use is slightly addictive! Such a great, simple tool that can be utilized to show work and have a platform to voice concerns and reasoning behind my practice and why I do what I do. The writing of text to accompany images helps to hone in on the important aspects and analyse work. Feedback from other contemporaries, disciplines and viewers helps to verify what works and what doesn't. I question my utilization of the technology enhancing tools within this social platform but realize that this alone is a creative instrument that is there to be explored and harnessed.
I have found it especially useful in the documentation of work in progress and the instant view it creates of a journey; tracking thought processes in a compact visual way. It has been especially valuable in the imagery of skeletal leaves. Highlighting and playing around with light and filters enhances these pieces of skeletal delicacy, showing their intricate and fragile state at its best. Showing deep contrasts of light and dark the pieces become clearer and even more engaging. Through photography I become even more intimate with their individuality. Each leaf becomes remembered for its shape, texture and physicality. They are forms that have a bigger presence than was ever intended.
.......as the weeks go by and I immerse myself more and more into the use of Instagram I harness the potential that may arise from this tool. As I was advised: you can never post too much the more the better!! It is a powerful and supportive network for the creative industry. Visually as well as community based it provides a supportive backdrop for feedback on work. It is also a great way of touching base on an international level and connecting with the industry overseas. I find that posting has to be regular, interesting, honest and reflective in order that followers and fans of my work are regularly informed of my journey and thought processes.
I increasingly feel that society is drawn to images of simplification. Lines, mark making and forms that are uncomplicated and offer strong contrasts. A sereneness that offers calm in a culture that is constant with visual bombardment. The process of stripping back and identifying detail is a process I will continue to develop.
The term sustainability appears to have had no effect according to Herbert Girardet. We seem to be in a spiral of ever changing climate change, problems with pollution and break down in society even through adopting the practice of 'sustainability'.
For the past 25 years Sustainability has been held as the answer to the problem of the degeneration of our planet and resources. But we are still tackling the same and even more desperate problems, so something is not working. The term sustainability has been abused and taken for granted. Why not regenerate damaged eco systems and run down communities; re use them?
'Sustainable development (SD) has been a global orthodoxy ever since it was agreed as a guiding principle for collective human action in the runup to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The official definition is well known: "Sustainable development … meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Effectively, it was a marriage of convenience to facilitate north-south collaboration on enhancing human livelihoods while also halting humanity's deteriorating relationship with its host planet.'
regeneration v. 1. bring new life or strength or 2. grow new tissue
How long is sustainable anyway? Who is it to benefit; society now or in the future and who exactly should be sustainable? Do we not need to benefit from a sustainable world now as well as in the future?
Urban communities are growing at an alarming rate as we exit into towns and cities just as in the industrial revolution for work and now our growing thirst for knowledge of place and culture and being part of the bigger picture. In order to do this we have put greater strain on the need to burn fossil fuels to accommodate society. The combustion of these fuels contribute to climate change. Should this powerful source of energy generated not be put to use? Regenerated into renewable energy or source.
Girardet believes we have the capabilities to be renewable in energy now and to regenerate local communities and economies in order to become a sustainable society and protect the worlds ecosystems. The teaching in Universities and Buisness schools needs to change to fix the idea of regeneration into the culture of everyday.
'The concept of regenerative development aims to fill this gap: it means that we need to develop comprehensive rules for an environmentally enhancing, restorative relationship between humanity and the ecosystems from which we draw resources for our sustenance'
As cities are the main source of pollution to the atmosphere through burning of fossil fuels they need to become responsible for the regeneration of the soils, forest and watercourses rather than sustaining them; to make their energy source from a renewable energy source. Create a circular process rather than a linear one........'giving plant nutrients back to nature, storing carbon in soils and forests, reviving urban agriculture, powering human settlements efficiently by renewable energy, reconnecting cities to the regional hinterland' .
This whole concept makes so much sense it is difficult to ignore, Why not work with what we have and build on the regeneration of the land, place, space and community. I will now be using the hashtag regeneration instead of sustainability!
The trip to Kinvara in Ireland was a real success. (See Kinvara tab for daily rundown) Tiring, and challenging on personal and profession fronts the experience was well worth the time and funds it swallowed!
Development of the Ice Form project continues and my collaboration with Mel Dewey https://meldeweyphotography.wordpress.com/action-research-and-experiments/062_28/ filming a time lapse of the ice forms melting last week worked extremely well. We will be putting the finishing touches to the film i.e. credits and maybe some sound in due course.
The onset of summer is strong in my mind and I am conscious of the wild flowers that cover hedge rows and rural areas. They will soon be gone as Autumn creeps in. With this in mind I collected a very delicate and fine variety of cow parsley; anthiscus sylvestris to press and immerse into hand made paper. This was initially experimentation but as ever experiments always produce the best work. This work is documented for the MA but I will concentrate on making more ; maybe a series post MA when I have more time to give the process.
MA Creative Practice